The study of ‘happiness’ is an interesting one because we, as human beings, are so diverse. You may be very happy hiking your favorite trail while your bookworm neighbor finds her greatest joy cozying up with a bestseller on a comfortable couch. If you caught last week’s column, you learned that even being friendly to strangers has its advantages by making us happier. A ten year study, completed in 2012, confirms the fact that the pursuit of happiness—wellness, flourishing—however we may describe it, has significant long term benefits. One primary benefit is longevity. The research report, found at alphapublications.org, studied 3000 adults 25 to 74 years of age. The findings assert that lower levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of positive emotions such as joy and happiness are associated with shorter life spans. Their conclusion states, “The absence of positive mental health increased the probability of all-cause mortality for men and women at all ages after adjustment for known causes of death.”
And, conversely, the upside to the study indicates that adults who find life more meaningful, feel more useful to others, and have a higher level of purpose in life have a lower risk of mortality. In a community such as Sedona, with a large population of mature adults, many of us have gone through the transition from younger years when we had a career and raised a family to retirement. While this life cycle is often anticipated with great enthusiasm, many find their purpose in life waning without the predictable routine of work and family. If this stage of life describes you, read on to find out why you may want to make an extra effort to boost your happiness, even if you feel relatively content.
Here’s why. The decade-long study brought out an engrossing observation—those research participants who “flourished” were at the top of the list for the happiest of human beings. While almost 50% of the participants met the sufficiently high emotional well-being criteria, only 18% met the full criteria of the high emotional well-being plus the sufficiently high social well-being. “Flourishing”, as used in the study, describes attributes such as managing stress successfully, being intimate with others, contributing to your community, and working productively. These characteristics are described collectively as ‘social well-being.’ The lead author, Corey Keyes, explains, “You need both of these qualities for complete happiness.”
At the Sedona Community Center, we endeavor to flourish and promote a practice of flourishing to our community at-large. Will a weekly session of Tai Chi take you from moderately happy to flourishing? How about volunteering once per week as a lunch room server or Meals on Wheels driver? Another great mood-booster is joining the daily lunch crowd at the Community Center to connect with your community and make new friends. Or do all of the above! There are many additional opportunities throughout Sedona to engage with others, stay active, and volunteer. I encourage you to try something new to ramp your happiness factor up a notch or two. Menus and calendars of activities can be found at www.sccsedona.org or at 2615 Melody Lane.